tv U.S. Senate Sens. Schumer Menendez on Iran CSPAN February 14, 2020 4:48am-5:05am EST
consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: madam president, today the senate will vote on a bipartisan war powers resolution offered by senator kaine directing the president to terminate the use of armed forces for hostilities against the republic of iran, the islamic republic of iran. the constitution is clear, congress has the power to declare war. the president has no authority to enter the united states into another endless conflict in the middle east, but i fear that the president's erratic decision-making, his lack of strategy, his inability to control his impulses may bumble us into a war nonetheless, even if he doesn't intend it. with this bipartisan resolution, the senate will assert its constitutional authority and send a clear bipartisan message that the president, this president or any president, cannot sidestep congress when it comes to matters of war and peace.
it's important to do this now. the president's actions in the middle east have escalated the confrontation. before the state of the union, the president himself said that war with iran was closer than you thought, his words. now let me be clear, nobody in this chamber will shed a single tear over the death of iranian general soleimani, but that doesn't mean that we disregard the potential consequences of the strike or any comparable action. it is more than appropriate for congress to affirm that it has authority over any major long-term hostilities with iran as the constitution prescribes. and yet, still some on the other side have claimed that this war powers resolution is nothing more than an attempt by democrats to embarrass president trump. the founding fathers would laugh at that assertion. one of the great powers they gave congress -- not the executive -- was the power to declare war. this resolution is partisan?
well, then why are a good number of republicans supporting it? let me say this again, this resolution is going to pass with a bipartisan majority of senators in support, a rarity these days. if this is purely an attempt to embarrass the president, well, it's going to be a bipartisan one. we need to stop pretending as if both sides of the aisle aren't concerned about the president having too much leeway over the matters of war and peace. that's why this resolution is bipartisan, because both sides of the aisle agree that for too long congress has ceded our constitutional authority to the executive branch and we're taking an important step today to claim that authority back. now today there will be amendments offered that would seek to do one thing and one thing only -- undermine what we're trying to achieve today and provide the president's lawyers with get-out-of-jail free cards. my colleague from arkansas has an amendment that would create an exception for operations against foreign terrorist
organizations. it sounds reasonable at first, but any enterprising lawyer in the administration could use this amendment to justify the type of unilateral escalation of hostilities that this legislation would prohibit. my colleague from florida has an outcome that seeks a similar outcome. my friends on both sides who wish this resolution to pass should vote down these amendments. they cut against the core of legislation. and senator kaine told me that if this amendment passed, the cotton amendment, he'd be forced to vote against his own bill, so what good would that do for those of us who want to pass it anyway? one final point, with respect to the situation in iran, we still don't have a clear picture from the administration about our strategy in the region. the only gesture of transparency that this administration has been able to muster was a classified all-members briefing conducted more than a week after the strike. 97 senators attended but only 15
members got to ask questions before the administration, led by secretary pompeo, practically sprinted out the door with a less than genuine commitment to return. our demands for a follow-up briefing have been ignored by the white house, secretary esper, secretary pompeo. those briefings should have occurred before the action. i learned about what we were doing in the news, and two hours later got a call from the administration. i fear that by keeping congress and the american people in the dark, president trump may be directing military operations in a manner that doesn't stand up to public scrutiny. when you're forced to consult with congress and when congress has the power to declare war, quick and sloppy thinking evaporates because people have to at least examine the issues in some detail. the american public has some say. that's why senator kaine's war powers resolution is a matter of
necessity. i commend senator kaine and his colleagues on the job he has done, including my colleague from illinois sitting right here, and urge mile colleagues to vote in -- urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it. now on department of justice, in the short week since the conclusion of the president's impeachment trial, the president has reminded us of all the reasons why congress must serve as a check on the executive. the president has dismissed members of his administration who testified in the house impeachment inquiry, including for no reason the twin brother of one of the witnesses. the administration has reportedly withdrawn the nomination of a senior pentagon official who merely advised her colleagues about the legal implications of delaying assistance to ukraine. truth, when the president doesn't like the truth has no place in this administration, and people who speak truth to power are summarily dismissed. and on tuesday after career prosecutors made sentencing recommendations for roger stone who was found guilty of witness
tampering and lying to congress, the president tweeted that his former colleague, confidante was being unfairly treated. soon afterwards it appears the attorney general or other political appointees at d.o.j. counter -- count mannedded and will provide a more lenient from the case. as a result some resigned from the justice department. a clear signal they believe the revised sentencing conflicted with their ethical obligations as prosecutors. of course it was not enough for the president to just lean on the justice department to make it easy on his old pal. the president went on publicly to attack the judge who will decide mr. stone's fate, another example of the president's blatant contempt for the independence of the judiciary. in the past, chief justice roberts has spoken out in
defense of the independence of the judicial branch. when the president during his campaign attacked judge kuriel, the chief justice released a statement saying we do not have obama judges, bush judges or clinton judges. we have an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right for those appearing before them. the independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for. that's what justice roberts said, chief justice roberts. well, president trump is once again attacking a federal judge, in this case judge amy berman jackson who is presiding over the stone case. the nation now looks again to chief justice roberts to make clear to president trump that these attacks are unacceptable. speaking of the independence of the judiciary in broad and general terms is well and good. it's a good thing to do. but to not speak up now when in
the middle of this brouhaha a judge is being attacked by the president before she makes a sentencing decision, that's when we really need the chief justice to speak up. so now would be the time for chief justice roberts to speak up. now would be the time for the chief justice to directly and specifically defend the independence of this federal judge. i hope he will see fit to do that and to do it today. i've also called on the inspector general of the justice department to investigate the roger stone matter. the judiciary committee in the senate should do the same. but even without formal investigation, it is abundantly clear that something is rotten in the justice department. the president can corrupt our justice department in two major ways. pressuring it to investigate his opponents or using its power to reward his friends.
impeachment of the president concerned the first abuse, the president wanted a foreign power to announce an investigation into one of his political opponents or funnel allegedly incriminating information to our justice department. the president explicitly mentioned the attorney general during his phone call with the ukranian president. more recently attorney general barr has publicly said that the justice department now set up a chattel to receive information from the president's personal attorney rudy giuliani about the ukraine scandal, what seems to be an attempt to accomplish the same goals the president was impeached over. the events surrounding mr. stone's more lenient sentencing recommendations are an example of the second way presidents can corrupt the justice department, improperly rewarding the president's friends. in the wake of watergate congress passed laws so that this kind of abuse of the levers of power would not happen again. but here right now the president
is using the hallowed justice department, the only cabinet agency named for an ideal justice as his personal law firm. he is using the justice department, named for an ideal justice, as his personal law firm. what a shame. what a defamation of what the constitution is all about. my senate colleagues who believe the president would be chastened by impeachment have been completely and disastrously wrong. the only lesson the president has learned is there is nothing he can do that senate republicans will not forgive or rationalize or simply ignore. the lesson the president has learned is that the courts are unlikely to stop him, too, because the senate republican caucus has voted to confirm virtually every judge he has nominated, no matter how unqualified or ill-suited to the bench. we are starting at a crisis of the rule of law. the institutions designed to check executive power are
crumbling before our very eyes. the crisis was the president's own making, but it was enabled and emboldened by every senate republican who has been too afraid to stand up to the president and say no. i yield the floor. mr. menendez: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i ask consent to speak for up to three minutes in debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: thank you, madam president. i rise in strong support of s.j. res. 68. senator kaine has done -- a distinguished member of the foreign relations committee has done an extraordinary job here in riveting our attention to a congressional responsibility that is paramount. it calls for the removal of u.s. troops from hostilities against iran that congress has not
authorized. one of the most consequential decisions we make as members of congress, i have been called on on more than one occasion between the house and the senate, is whether or not to send our sons and daughters into battle. it is a decision that is about life and death and national security. the constitution delegated that power to only one institution of the entire federal government, the congress of the united states, to declare war because of the severity of the consequences of the decision. and it is up to the congress to ensure that the executive branch, whoever sits there at any given time, utilizes all the tools of diplomacy it has to keep americans safe and that there is an effective check on executive power before we send our children off to war.
so i stand in strong support of the resolution this body must assert its congressional privilege. now, of course the president has the right to take action to defend against imminent threats to the homeland and to america abroad. no one disputes that. senator kaine doesn't dispute that. none of us do. but the president does not have the authority to engage in any military action that he likes. we have been hearing from this administration that there is a red line. iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. i agree. but if at the end of the day that means that to enforce your red line you're going to take america to war, then you must come to the congress of the united states and seek that authorization for war. what i hear from the administration, oh, no, we have article 2 powers. oh, no, the 2002 resolution that had nothing to do with iran, never envisioned, is so tortured
to be able to suggest that that is an authorization is authorization for us. can we sit back and let -- and contemplate that responsibility? we cannot. we cannot. and so as someone who voted against the war in iraq and served in congress in the debate whether to authorize military action, i can assure you that it was not its intention, the 2002 resolution, and it doesn't comport with the history, the use, or the plain reading of the text. i'm grateful concerned by the administration's efforts to build a shaky legal foundation for the explicit purpose of carrying out into ever-longer wars, including potentially against iran. before we vote to ultimately decide that, it should be the congress of the united states that should make that decision, on behalf of the american people, looking our sons and daughters in the eyes, and saying yes, this is worthy of the national security of the
united states. i will vote to send my son and daughter if the cause is right, but if the cause is not right, i will not vote to send my son and daughter or anyone else's sons and daughters. that's where the debate should be had here. that's what senator kaine is trying to do through this resolution. i am concerned that some of the amendments being offered, it's simply to undermine that. and so i look forward to joining with senator kaine to passing the resolution as well as to opposing some of t mr. inhofe: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: madam president, the -- i think that president trump's decision to take out general soleimani was the bonus defense decision of his policy to date. the president defended american lives and showed iran that terrorism and, most importantly, spilling american blood is something that will come at a price. unlike something